Vanek Tunnel

Second Take with Brad Gelber- Vanek Panic

Often times it’s easy to tell how active an offseason a team is having simply by what constitutes as “breaking news” during those summer months. Wednesday afternoon Thomas Vanek was the talk of the town with recent comments regarding his future with the Blue & Gold. Shawn Stepner from WKBW tweeted out a rather disheartening quote from Vanek who had been practicing in his former collegiate home of Minnesota. The quote that sent shockwaves across the social sphere was as follows:

Cue immediate awe, devastation, bewilderment, astonishment, anger, frustration and any other synonym you care to insert here. Most Sabres faithful (myself included) were down right PO’d at our Austrian stud for being so forthright with a member of the media in regards to his feelings on the team he’s been with since 2004. Perhaps Vanek needs a lesson from Bill Belichick and company over in New England on how to properly address questions regarding your future with a team. Be vague, say your concern is with winning with the team you’re are with and conclude by stating that everything else is out of your control. Whatever you do don’t say something that’ll make headlines even if it’s the truth.

Regardless, he said what he said and you’d think of course this constitutes as big offseason news. A star player is unhappy with his current team’s direction, which only adds fuel to the fire that is trade speculation. Only problem? We had this exact conversation three months prior…

If you felt like you were having deja vu while reading Vanek’s latest statement, that’s because you were. Back in April as the Sabres cleaned out their lockers after missing the playoffs for the second straight year (and fourth time in six seasons) Vanek gave an eerily similar statement to the media concerning his future in Buffalo: “If it looks like it's a long rebuild, then it probably makes sense for both parties to move on." Wait a minute, you mean three months later in the midst of a very quiet offseason, Vanek’s opinion on the team hasn’t changed?!? Blasphemy!

In all seriousness though, what did people expect? It’s not like the team has gone after any big names or even made very many character-building moves. It’s been quiet, and quiet isn’t good for a guy that’s frustrated. The one saving grace in all of this somber negativity? The fact that Vanek’s most recent quote didn’t end there.

I’m sure it’s awfully surprising to hear that journalists tend to tease a story with whatever quote will draw eyeballs. In this case, tweeting out to Sabres fans that Vanek thinks Buffalo isn’t the best place for him causes people to react. The problem is instead of clicking through to actually read, or in this case watch, the interview in it’s entirety, people draw their own conclusions and sensationalize to the point that the original meaning of the story gets lost in the fallout.

After finding myself perturbed by Vanek’s lack of subtleness, I did the unthinkable and watched the whole interview. Yes folks I took just over three minutes of my life to understand what a guy was saying in the proper context. Low and behold the rest of the statement pretty much nullified all this buzzworthiness.

While I implore you to watch the entire interview for yourselves, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version here. Immediately after his supposed “nail in the coffin” about wanting out of the 716, Vanek finished that very same sentence by stating: “but at the same time there’s a lot of good, young players and hopefully, you know, we picked the right ones.” The reporter went on to ask if there was any guarantee Vanek would be in Buffalo come opening night. Vanek brushed the question off saying he was preparing to go back to Buffalo and was in no way flattered by having his name constantly discussed in trade rumors. He pretty much summed up the actual tone of the interview when he said: “I’ve enjoyed my time in Buffalo and I’m looking forward to going back.”

My point in all of this is that we are often times too quick to pull the panic switch. Is there some reading between the lines necessary when players give interviews? Of course, but you also can’t rely on a single headline either. Maybe Vanek does end up playing with his old pal Pominville in Minnesota, or perhaps he stays in Buffalo and leads the team to a Stanley Cup title. The point is we don’t know what will happen. All we can do is take the info we’re are given and run with it, but we need to run with ALL of the information, not merely the flashy parts. Just make sure next time one of the player’s is quoted as saying they “want out of town,” the rest of the quote that wasn’t featured doesn’t end with “for vacation.”

Tweet of the Week:

As always our former coach’s tie weighs in with a hefty dose of perspective…


Have your own opinion on this week’s column or a topic you want featured in next week’s column? Get at me on Twitter: @BradleyGelber